Chapter 7 : VII
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Claire stopped dead in her tracks and looked around. The hallway was completely empty, almost eerily empty. Somewhat ruffled, she continued on her way.
She stopped again, this time sure of what she had heard. She looked to her left and saw the large tapestry of Imelda the Imp hanging next to her. Just as she raised a hand to pull it back, something shot out from behind the fabric, grabbed her arm, and yanked her into complete darkness.
“Oi, what the –“
Before she could launch into a slew of obscenities, someone roughly covered her mouth with his own, and suddenly everything made sense again. She leaned against the wall behind her, holding the warm, firm body against hers, running a hand through his shaggy hair. Her lips broke away and followed the strong jaw line. A soft groan echoed through the small alcove.
“We really have to stop meeting like this, love,” he said, his voice low at her ear.
“You mean you have to stop meeting me like this,” Claire replied, pressing kisses along his neck. She felt him shudder and she smiled.
“Well, when you insist on keeping this secret…”
She closed her lips over his and hooked one arm around his neck, tugging him closer. One of his hands crept up her waist and the other toyed with the hem of her skirt.
“Did you tell Evans about this?”
“No,” she answered hurriedly.
“She doesn’t have to know.”
“She’s your friend, you should tell her.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Claire could see Lily eyeing her deviously. She looked up from her textbook and turned to face her, huffing with frustration.
“What’s on your neck?” she asked, her eyes narrowing suspiciously.
“What are you talking about?” Claire asked rudely, pulling a compact mirror out of her school bag. She snapped it open and peered at her reflection. She had almost missed it when something caught her eye.
A small, round discolouration, the size of a Sickle, something like a bruise, had developed, almost hidden by the collar of her blouse. She felt her cheeks heat up when she looked back at Lily.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she said coolly.
“Oh really? Walked into a wall, did you? Who’ve you been necking?”
The image of herself and Sirius in the fourth floor broom cupboard flashed through Claire’s mind.
She turned back to her Herbology text but could not shake her mounting guilt and embarrassment.
Claire sighed in contentment as she leaned her back against Sirius’s chest. One of his hands was in hers, and the other was wrapped around her shoulders, holding her body against his. It was long past midnight in the Gryffindor common room and the pair had deliberately remained behind until after all the other students had gone to bed.
“Hey, James,” said Sirius softly.
“Remember when you dated that Ravenclaw idiot?”
She smiled. “Deverell Terfel?”
“Yeah, that one.”
“I know it was you who made him purple,” she accused playfully.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said haughtily, upturning his nose, and quickly disguising a smirk.
“I should turn you in, you know. He’s probably had severe emotional damage. It’s not easy being purple.”
“Remember that fight you said you had?”
“What was it about?”
It took a few moments for Claire to remember, but when she did, a furious blush bloomed across her face.
“Please? I won’t make fun.”
“Yes, you will.”
“I’ll be good,” he said, pressing a kiss to her temple. “I promise.”
She sighed. “It was about you.”
Sirius’s eyes widened in surprise for a moment, and then he smiled wickedly. “What?”
“He heard the Gryffindor rumours about how we fancied each other and he confronted me about it.”
“Well, it was true, wasn’t it?”
“I did not fancy you then!” she cried, indignantly.
“Ah, well,” he said, pressing another kiss to her hair. “You’re well shot of him.”
“That I am,” she said, turning to kiss his cheek.
Sirius could practically feel the steam shooting out his ears as Claire stared him down, a look of absolute fury on her face. He could not even speak coherently, he was so angry. She was being completely unreasonable and stupid. Claire had chased him into the hallway outside Gryffindor tower, leaving them perfectly alone, which only encouraged her to yell even louder.
"Are you mentally deficient?’ she shrieked. ‘First of all, I am flattered that you’d think that I’d shag every boy I speak to – “
"Oi, that’s not what I meant – “
“- and second of all, it is none of your business who I speak to and what I do with my time! I could shag a million boys over if I wanted to, and you can’t say anything about it! So I can shag whomever I bloody want!"
"Oh, so that’s why you wanted to keep this a secret? So you could go and drop your knickers for anyone who asked?"
"Yes, that’s exactly why, you fucking idiot," she snapped sardonically. "We made a deal, I’m not holding you to anything, so you have no right to think you have some kind of influence over me. We’re not together, we’re not exclusive, and you can back out anytime. I don’t owe you anything."
"Are you fucking kidding me right now? If I went and shagged some girl somewhere, you’d stop this in an instant. I had to prove myself to you – went alone for a month. And now you’re telling me you’re not holding me to anything?"
"Fine, do you want to end this?"
"NO, I DON'T WANT TO BLOODY END THIS!" he bellowed, not caring that his voice was echoing around the empty corridor.
"Then what the hell are we even yelling about? We have an agreement; we’re both holding up the agreement, so what’s the problem?"
"I don’t want you talking to him!"
"Well, that’s not up to you, now is it?" Sirius watched her face flush a brilliant red as she balled her hands into fists. "I’ve had enough of this rubbish for tonight, so you can just fuck right off."
With that, she stormed out of the hall, yelled at the Fat Lady, stomped through the common room, and up to her dormitory, leaving behind a seething Sirius and a bewildered Gryffindor audience. She plopped onto her bed and let out a scream of frustration, laying her face in her hands.
"What was that about?"
Claire looked up from her hands and saw Lily leaning in the doorway of their dormitory.
"Black being a fucking twat, is what."
"Yeah, we heard a bit about Thomas, mental deficiency, and 'bloody' ending something," said Lily, sauntering over to her bed. "You lot were pretty loud."
"Yeah, well, I was pretty angry," Claire grumbled. "It was nothing, don’t worry about it."
"He was just jealous, you know," Lily said gently after a moment. "He still fancies you. Maybe you should give him a shot, even if he’s an idiot."
Claire looked up, but did not say anything, looking at Lily sternly. Lily sighed.
"So you’re just going to sit here and wallow for the evening?"
"Oi, Sirius, whatever happened with James?"
Sirius yawned obnoxiously, not bothering to cover his mouth. He and James were lounging casually in the Gryffindor common room after their latest detention with Filch, the room nearly deserted, save for two very exhausted-looking fourth year students, cramming for tomorrow’s test.
"What d’you mean?"
"Well last week you were moaning about how she won’t love you and you haven’t mentioned her since," said James, stifling his own yawn. "Did you two work it out?"
A sudden yearning to confess everything to James overtook him, to tell him that not only had he and Claire worked it out, but she had finally succumbed to her attraction to him and that they had met each other for a passionate snog at least once every day for the past week and a half. He wished he could tell him about how the pair of them can finally go on those stupid double dates they used to joke about with Claire and Lily, and that Claire was the best snog he had ever had, and that yesterday she had let him touch her tits. He even wanted to gush about how happy he was that he had finally met someone who seemed to not only like him for more than his name and his looks, but could also match him and be his equal and with whom he could be completely comfortable.
And just as he opened his mouth to tell James everything, he remembered that Claire had forbidden it and something in the pit of his stomach sank. He sighed.
"Yeah, we worked it out."
It was the final flying practice for the first and second-years before the Christmas holidays and Sirius had had to teach it alone. James was busy with his Head Boy duties, which Sirius could not internally laughing about, and many of the younger student had stopped attending as the weather continued to get colder and the days shorter. The group had whittled down to a circle of seven, which McGonagall had decided was manageable for Sirius to supervise alone, so long as there was another prefect present. As Peter was in the hospital wing nursing a fever and James was off being responsible, Sirius had convinced Remus to accompany him.
They had only been flying for an hour when Sirius noticed that two of the students looked frozen to their brooms, shivering so violently that they could hardly fly straight. Cutting the lesson short, he asked Remus to escort the students back to the castle while he placed the brooms back in the shed.
"Hey you," said a familiar voice from behind him.
He turned to face Claire, holding back a laugh at the sight of her green knitted hat, covered in blue pom-poms.
"Nice hat," he said, flicking one of the pom-poms with his finger. She leaned forward and pressed a soft kiss to his lips.
"I thought you’d like it. My aunt made it for me."
"What are you doing out here? Shouldn’t you be packing?"
"Well, I ran into Remus earlier and he mentioned that he’d be supervising your lesson, so I thought that I’d come and meet you afterward," she said, shuffling up to him and wrapping her hands in his scarf. "I saw you finish up from the window so I came out to say hi since I didn’t think we’d have a chance to be alone before the train tomorrow morning."
"How mighty kind of you," he said in a funny accent, earning him a raised eyebrow and a chuckle. "Think you’ll miss me?"
"I’ve already cried twice. I don’t know how I’m going to get on without you for so long," she declared melodramatically.
"You know," he said in a low voice, dropping a kiss by her ear, "I think I know a way we can make it a bit easier."
"Oh yeah. I’m pretty sure the Quidditch changing rooms are empty, if you’d like to pop in there for a little bit."
She smiled deliciously before taking his hand and leading him to the change rooms, her blue pom-poms bouncing with every step.
Claire stepped into Flitwick’s classroom just as students were beginning to settle down. In classes where seating was not assigned, Claire sat with Lily. However, since Lily and James had become a couple, Claire often found herself sitting with Sirius, who had once been James’s de facto seating partner. She walked to the left side of the room when she noticed Sirius leaning back in his seat, his hands casually folded behind his head, talking animatedly to the Hufflepuff girl sitting on his desk. Claire’s lip curled in dissatisfaction.
She walked over to her seat purposefully and dropped her book bag onto her desk with an obnoxious clang.
Sirius and the girl looked over to her. Sirius looked cheerful and quite pleased with himself, though the girl looked quite bashful and flushed.
"I guess I better get going," she said quietly, hopping off of Sirius’s desk. "Later, Sirius."
Claire gave her a cold look as she walked over to her friends before she sat herself down in her seat and turned to Sirius. She raised an eyebrow, but did not say anything.
"Good morning to you, too," he said with a grin.
"Who was that?" Claire asked in a low voice, her temper revealing her displeasure.
"Oh, darling, don’t be jealous," said Sirius offhandedly. "Hera and I are old friends."
"Hera?" she asked, a touch of derisiveness in her voice.
Sirius’s smiled broadened. "You know, you wear jealousy very well. It’s very cute."
"Shut up, I’m not jealous."
Just as Professor Flitwick had raised his wand to get the attention of the classroom, Sirius leaned towards her, his lips at her ear, and whispered, "You’re lucky you made that rule about keeping this secret or else I would show you right now just how little reason you have to be jealous."
A shiver ran down Claire’s body as she kept her eyes fixed on the front of the room.
"I think you should go to Hogsmeade with me."
Claire looked up from her textbook to meet Sirius’s eyes, her eyes wide as saucers.
"Like... on a date?"
"Like on a date." He smiled serenely, watching her face contort with bemusement and frustration. He grinned as she struggled to speak, her tongue tied.
"B-but we – we’re not going out," she stammered. "We’re not together."
"I know," he replied, picking up a stray apple from the fruit bowl between them. Claire gave a sideways glance at the group of fifth year girls several seats down from them, making sure that they would not be overheard.
"See, going to Hogsmeade together, on a date, would imply going out," she hissed.
"I don’t see what the problem is, James," Sirius said through a mouthful of apple and a noncommittal wave of his hand. Claire wrinkled her nose in distaste. "We’re not getting married, it’s not a big deal. Thirteen-year-olds go to Hogsmeade together on 'dates', so why can’t we?"
Claire pondered this for a moment, frowning.
"Let’s just go out together, check out a couple shops, have a couple drinks. It’ll be fun. We don’t have to go to Puddifoot’s or hold hands or play footsie at the Three Broomsticks," he said, grinning. "To everyone else, it’ll look like a pair of mates hanging out. What’s the problem?"
He eyed her intently, waiting for a response, placing his apple core on his plate. Claire watched the apple vanish and sighed.
"Alright, fine," she said, grudgingly. "But this is not a date!"
Sirius smirked with satisfaction. "Oh, yes it is."
"No it is not! It’s a pair of mates hanging out for an afternoon!"
"Oh no, it’s a date," he said, smiling evilly. "Make sure to wear something nice."
"I will not!" she cried, outraged. "And I’ll be late, too!"
"I’ll see you at ten," he said, ignoring her indignant cries as he stood from his seat and wiped his mouth with his napkin.
"No you will not!" Claire yelled after him.